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News in Brief

AUSTRALIA's film and video industry is about to launch a concerted campaign arguing that copyright piracy is not a victimless crime and is fleecing the industry of about $250 million per year. Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT) executive director Adrianne Pecotic says piracy is estimated to have tripled between 2000 and 2005, with many buyers unaware of their impact on local industry.

AUSTRALIA's population of around 20 million with a reputation as early adopters of new technology, currently has one of the highest per capita ownerships of HD displays in the world (LCD and Plasma). To date, about 300,000 Blu-ray playback devices have been sold, – 270,000 PlayStation3 consoles and 30,000 Blu-ray standalone players.

DIVX and Warner Bros. Entertainment have entered into an agreement that will enable online retailers to offer Warner Bros. titles in the DivX standard definition format in October 2008 and high definition format in September 2009. The agreement covers all movie and TV titles available for digital distribution in the Warner Bros. catalogue. All titles offered in the DivX format are compatible with a variety of DivX Certified devices from consumer electronics brands, including DVD players, Blu-ray devices, gaming consoles and more.

MPEG LA announced that CE retail chain Target Corporation has entered into the MPEG-2 Patent Portfolio License offered by MPEG LA. Under the License terms, Target will be responsible for paying royalties on its own store-branded MPEG-2 products including digital TVs and DVD players sold under the name Trutech. As a result of this agreement, several companies that license their essential MPEG-2 patents through MPEG LA dismissed a patent enforcement action pending before the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

ABOUT 2,000 Thai antigovernment demonstrators paraded in the centre of Bangkok, last week accusing the police of brutality and keeping pressure on the Primer Minister to resign. In a another demonstration, supporter of the People’s Democratic Alliance distributed leaflets and DVDs showing images of demonstrators injured in what they called police repression during a large-scale meeting.

YEAR-TO-DATE through 28 September, sell-through DVD spending slipped 3.5% from the same 2007 period to $8.58 billion, according to Video Business research. Disc rentals dropped 1.2% to $5.66 billion, according to VB research and Rentrak. Taken together, the entire industry fell 2.4% to $14.25 billion. The declines were driven by DVD sell-through, which was off by about 6%, according to some studios. Blu-ray Disc sales, in contrast, grew 200% to nearly 300% from a small base, according to studio estimates.

20TH CENTURY Fox Home Entertainment has begun testing simultaneous day-and-date releases of their latest titles on DVD and VOD. The testing began on 7 October, with the Night Shyamalan thriller "The Happening." Steve Feldstein, senior VP of marketing communications, added, “We’re looking at a lot of different models and looking at various incremental points of distribution that are available. We’re doing a little experimenting with dating and windows.” Warner began similar testing last year and continues to do so with movies such as Speed Racer and Journey to the Center of the Earth.

INSPECTION company Dr Schenk has announced that, in a co-operation with Singulus and the German optical disc manufacturer CDA, its system has prevailed as the inspection system of choice. The enhanced BD-specific defect classification and precise layer thickness measurement of helped in the decision, Hettler added. "Having compared several systems during our purchase decision the Schenk system proved to be the best choice for our requirements."

HDTV sets overtook standard definition television sets as the leading TV device shipped globally in 2008. iSuppli forecasts HDTV unit shipments to grow to 241.2 million by 2012, managing a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 20 percent, up from 97.1 million units in 2007. Non-HDTV unit shipments are forecast to decline to 23.1 million units by 2012, down from 114.8 million units in 2007. It translates into a CAGR drop of 27 percent.

IN its first quarter of availability, Apple shipped 6.9m iPhone 3G handsets worldwide, giving a total of 13m iPhones shipped since the introduction of the iPhone in July 2007. This helped the company post fourth quarter profit of $1.1 billion, up 26% from net income of $904 million during the previous-year period. Revenue increased 27%, to $7.9 billion, from $6.2 billion last year. The iPhone 3G has already outsold both the original iPhone and BlackBerry’s Smart Phone by 800,000 units, respectively. The unit now represents 39% of Apple’s total business.

SOUTH Korea is to establish a US$55.6 million (80 billion won) film fund aimed at reviving its stagnant film industry. The Korean Film Council (KOFIC), a government-supported, self-administered body, announced the creation of the fund as part of short-term measures to revitalize the industry some fear has passed its golden years. KOFIC said it will also input $1.04 million to support DVD contents marketing and improve the distribution environment for the DVDs.

30 DAYS to go before the all-important Thanksgiving and Black Friday sales, and a Blu-ray player has been spotted on the Sears Black Friday Deals for a little as $179.99. Many prospective buyers are expected to camp out in front of the stores since it concerns a so-called Doorbuster deal.

PANASONIC and Sanyo have reached a preliminary agreement for Panasonic to acquire fledgling Sanyo for an undisclosed sum, according to a media report published by the Kyodo News Agency. The two companies secretly came to agreement last month, according to Japanese sources, without naming who first disclosed the news. The opportunistic move is well timed as Sanyo's stock has lost one third its value since September.

VIDEO games are expected to outsell music and other video products this year for the first time, making them the UK's number one form of entertainment, according to Verdict Research. The analysts predicts that the video games market would grow by £1.37bn or 42% in 2008, outstripping music and video sales which were expected to stagnate. That would value the games market at £4.6bn compared to the £4.46bn spent on music and videos.

EYE SCREAM Factory, the Boston-based creative team providing automation design templates and royalty-free content for media hobbyists and professionals, announced the availability of Eye Scream Factory DVD Clips, royalty-free animated backgrounds designed specifically for DVD menus. Each clip is provided as a 20-second QuickTime movie compatible with most any DVD authoring, video editing, or compositing software application. 24 animated backgrounds are available in NTSC and PAL format for $9.99 USD per clip.

CONSUMER research from Leichtman Research Group has found that 34 per cent of households in the US have at least one high definition television (HDTV) set – approximately double the percentage of households that had an HDTV set two years ago.The growth of HDTV sets was largely driven by on-going consumer purchasing of TV sets coupled with a dwindling supply of lower-end non-HDTV sets being sold. Overall, 22 per cent of all households purchased a new TV set in the past 12 months, with 43 per cent of this group spending over $1,000 on a new TV.

MULTIMEDIA Research Group’s latest IPTV Global Forecast shows that global IPTV subscribers will grow from 20.4 million IPTV subscribers in 2008 to 89.6 million in 2012. By then, European subscribers will still be slightly ahead of Asia, with Europe maintaining 41.5% of the worldwide subscriber market and Asia, 35.8%. By 2012 North America will have only about 17% share of the total worldwide subscribers, however it will dominate the global market in terms of gross service revenue at about $13 billion, due to higher ARPU.

RECAST Digital announced it can deliver high-definition and DVD-quality video over the internet without the need for specialist software or workstation-class hardware above and beyond a browser and Adobe's Flash plug-in. The company's Flash-based RDV1 player senses the computer power and bandwidth available to the user, and adjusts the definition accordingly up to the 3Mbit/s required for full HD quality. Jonathan Toni, director at Recast Digital, believes that the primary recipients of the technology would be content owners, such as advertising agencies or broadcasters, making it a potential rival to the BBC's hugely popular iPlayer service.

NETFLIX has emailed to its subscribers informing them they would no longer be able to rent HD DVDs. "Effective December 15, 2008, we will no longer carry HD DVDs. At that time, we will automatically replace any HD DVD titles in your queue with standard DVDs when available. You don't have to do anything." It's unsure what will happen to the company's HD DVD catalogue.

JRIA – The Japan Recording Media Industries Association is forecasting a strong global demand for Blu-ray media based on estimates for 2008. In its latest report, global demand for Blue laser discs (Blu-ray and HD DVD) in 2008 was to increase four-fold over 2007 to 20 million units. JRIA estimates that 2009 demand will grow to a total of 64 million units, which translate into a 320% increase. The association forecasts that demand for blue laser discs will peak in 2011, when worldwide demand will total 279 million discs.

STREAMS of mourners recently paid their last respects in Thailand to noted anti-piracy campaigner Kasim Cha Tong, a leading lawyer in the Malaysian Thai community, who was murdered earlier this month. The former police officer and Anti-Corruption Agency officer made his name as an anti-piracy campaigner with the IFPI in the early 1980s as its deputy regional director. He was also a director of the Motion Pictures Export Association of America and became a household name when he led numerous anti-piracy operations.

SALES of Blu-ray Disc players are not now expected to hit the worldwide target of 5 million units according to Stan Glasgow, chief operating officer of Sony Electronics Inc. "It's not that far off of it," Glasgow said in an interview with Reuters. "Maybe 10 percent off of what we had thought. It's truly one of the items that has performed well during this economic mess." After the US Thanksgiving holiday on 27 November, electronics retailers are expected to slash prices of Blu-ray players to as low as $150. Glasgow suggested that discounted prices for movies could jump-start player sales. Some movies’ pricetag can top $30 a piece.